Holland

Eash. The bike I rented yesterday, a sort of ungainly, beat-up cruiser (I paid extra for gears, but they were minimally useful), was as rough on me as I was on it — I hauled about 60 kilometers on that rusty rented piece of shit today, and the top of my thighs are killing me from where they got pinched by the huge seat. I took a ferry from Centraal Station across the Ij to the far side of the city, then spent the next 7 hours biking along the sea dikes and through small towns. The route was laid out in the book, but with minimal directions, so I ended up relying on the extremely well executed system of signs for specifically the bike route network in this province (amazing!) and, when that failed, bus signs.

At least it’s flat, and the cycling was mostly easy. The wind was killer on the way back, I didn’t realize how much it was helping me on the way out. I made a big loop, but after the halfway point the going got much tougher — I was both tired and now fighting the wind. But overall well worth it for sweet views from the dikes of the sea and the intensely bucolic reclaimed farmland. The little villages were also quite cute at times, and that famous lowlands light lived up to its portayal in the Golden Age paintings I saw yesterday at the Rijksmusem.

I rolled back into town around 3:30 in the afternoon (much earlier than I had thought, I figured it would take all day, and thank god today was the first day we didn’t have any rain). Went to a cafe called Winkel, had a huge piece of apple pie and a glass of orange juice. Spent the rest of the afternoon getting blitzed on amnesia and biking around doing what I’ve come to call the “gracht tango”, hopelessly trying to navigate the dense array of streets and canals (roads on streets next to canals end in “-gracht”) that make up this part of the city. It’s intensely charming, although crawling with tourists, which I’m not used to after South Africa. Walking down the street here I’m as likely to hear someone speaking English or French as Dutch.

I just had some dinner at “Noodle & Go”, a kind of ikea-meets-fastfoodnoodles place nearby that I chose because it would be quick. It’s still light here at 9:40 and will be for half an hour, which is also a huge trip coming from the southern hemisphere where it was getting dark at 5:30. I kind of want to go out, but it now hurts to bike I’m so wiped so I think I’m just going to watch Interview with a Vampire (strange sudden craving, so I quickly downloaded it here at the hostel — thank god for broadband, I felt like I was breathing through a tube on South African Internet connections). Tomorrow maybe another bike tour, depending on how my legs feel. Wednesday going to Texel. The Netherlands are lovely in the summertime.

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